The University of Hong Kong (HKU) has lifted an entry ban on 18 students over a motion of sympathy for the attacker of a police officer, but has confirmed the ban it announced last month on a number of other student union council members.

Charles Kwok Wing-ho (middle), president of the University of Hong Kong Student Union. Photo: Stand News.

Individual members received an email notice from the university on Thursday announcing that they will be denied access to all campus locations and services starting next Monday.

The HKU Council which runs the university had announced in early August that students involved in the controversial July 7 motion would be barred from the campus as of September 6.

It was not clear how many students had received the email notice. This formally informs them that they are subject to “risk mitigating measures” in relation to the case, HKU student union publication Undergrad reported.

“We do not have sufficient information to address or remove the risk concerns of the University in relation to your participation in the said HKUSU Council meeting,” the email read.

The campus ban will continue “until further notice, and [is] subject to review upon the availability of further information, including information provided by yourself or through your legal representatives.”

The original student motion, expressing sympathy for the “sacrifice” of the man who killed himself after stabbing a policeman, sparked an uproar even though it was quickly withdrawn. But the university’s response, which was seen as pre-empting the proper disciplinary procedures, was also criticised by hundreds of alumni.

Four student council leaders have been arrested and charged under the national security law with advocating terrorism in relation to the motion and three of them remain in custody pending trial.

A student union council member told HKFP that he has not personally received an email notice from the university but confirmed that other members received them.

Effective suspension

“The email from today… it is expected. I’m not too shocked,” he said. “If I do get an email [about barring me from campus], it is no different from suspending me. Depending on whether it is for a prolonged period, I may apply for leave of absence and find other things to do.”

Asked if his family was concerned about the ban, the student leader said they have yet to discuss the matter. “I missed a call from my family just now because I was in a lecture… I guess they have something to say, but I have not [called them back].”

File Photo: StandNews.

A statement from the university spokesperson said the institution decided not to subject 18 of the 44 student union council members to the ban, “having considered the available information and assessed the risks.”

However in the absence of formal disciplinary hearings, the university did not indicate whether the ban would be upheld for all the remaining 26 members, or say why it revoked the ban in the case of the 18. At the July 7 meeting of the HKU Students’ Union Council, 30 voted for the motion and two abstained.

“The University hopes that the students will reflect deeply upon their words and deeds, abide by the law, and uphold their social and ethical obligations. The University will continue to notify other students individually regarding the execution of the risk mitigating measure upon them,” the spokesperson said.

The motion expressed “deep sadness” at the death of Leung Kin-fai, the 50-year-old who committed suicide after attacking and seriously injuring the officer on July 1, the 24th anniversary of the city’s handover.

HKU student union HKUSU
HKU student union. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

The authorities condemned the attack as a “lone-wolf terrorist act,” while those who paid tribute to Leung were said to be “glorifying violence.”

Facing an intense backlash from the pro-government camp, the government and the university, the HKU student union leadership stepped down, apologised and withdrew the “seriously inappropriate” motion two days later.

But officers from the police national security unit raided the student union offices on July 16 and arrested four of the students about a month later.

Meanwhile, Secretary for Education Kevin Yeung said in response to a lawmaker’s question on Wednesday that the Education Bureau would provide assistance in amending the University Ordinance, if HKU wishes to bar its student union from appointing student members to the university’s disciplinary committee, Ming Pao reported.

Additional reporting: Kelly Ho.

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Selina Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist who previously worked with HK01, Quartz and AFP Beijing. She also covered the Umbrella Movement for AP and reported for a newspaper in France. Selina has studied investigative reporting at the Columbia Journalism School.